Times Union Center to get new name: MVP buys rights for 5 years

The Times Union Center, shown Oct. 30, 2021, will soon bear the name of MVP Healthcare.
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The Times Union Center, shown Oct. 30, 2021, will soon bear the name of MVP Healthcare.

ALBANY — The downtown Albany sports and performance venue now known as the Times Union Center will soon bear the name of MVP Health Care. 

Facility owner Albany County announced Monday that it had chosen the Schenectady-based health insurer’s naming rights proposal. 

The five-year deal will cost MVP $2 million a year — $600,000 to the county for the name and $1.4 million for initiatives across the region to improve community health and address health care inequity. There are two five-year options to renew the contract with the same terms.

With approval of the Albany County Legislature, the rebranding will occur Jan. 1. The new name will include the letters M, V and P, but the county and the insurer are still working out the exact wording, look and feel of the arena’s new identity.

MVP Health Care President and CEO Chris Del Vecchio said Monday the divided annual payments reflect the dual purpose of the company’s decision to secure the naming rights: marketing MVP and furthering its community health initiatives.

The largest part of MVP’s annual payment for the arena naming rights — $1.4 million into a community investment fund — is a continuation of work MVP already does.

In Albany County alone, MVP supports more than 50 organizations working toward community wellness with grants or sponsorships.

When the Times Union newspaper opted recently not to renew its naming rights, MVP saw the opportunity.

“Over the last year we’ve been looking for like-minded organizations and providers,” Del Vecchio said, adding that Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy has had similar priorities, working to boost access to health care for underserved communities within that county.

It is a bold move, Del Vecchio said, but this is a time that calls for bold moves.

The $1.4 million annual spending by MVP is earmarked not just for Albany County but across the region and beyond, he said.

MVP has 1,700 employees and 700,000 members in New York and Vermont.

The partnership with Albany County has some similarities with MVP’s partnership with the University of Vermont, which helps direct new subscribers to a Medicare Advantage product MVP offers in that state.

MVP is looking for steps that each would offer multiple benefits. 

A farmers market on-site would raise awareness of the arena and bring fresh healthy food into a neighborhood with few options to buy it. Youth sports clinics would bring a new generation of residents into the building and promote healthy activity. Off-site projects such as a community fitness court along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail focus more exclusively on health.

And all of these things would boost MVP’s profile.

“It’s a combination of our community engagements and our marketing,” Del Vecchio said. “Some of it’s just redirecting.”

The county named the civic center the Knickerbocker Arena when it opened in January 1990, then branded it the Pepsi Arena in 1997 under the first naming deal. The Times Union took over the name in 2007 but opted in September to not renew the deal.

MVP’s $600,000 a year is significantly more than the $350,000 the TU was paying.

Del Vecchio said that when the county did a walk-through at the arena with potential bidders for naming rights, there were about a dozen other entities present. So MVP offered a significant sum of money, but it also tried to present a strong bid beyond financials.

Albany County said it chose MVP over Berkshire Bank, MTX Group and Transfinder.

“We received and reviewed great proposals from several other companies, and I’m hopeful there may be future projects with which they may be involved,” McCoy said in a news release. “However, MVP Health has demonstrated that they share our values in health equity and community investment through a $1.4 million annual Innovation Fund that will help grow attendance at events at the MVP Arena, support our local businesses and help Albany County build on the progress we’ve been making.”

Events at the Knickerbocker-Pepsi-TU arena have drawn more than 18 million spectators over the decades. It can seat 6,000 to 17,500 people, depending on its configuration.

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